de·​fine | \ di-ˈfīn How to pronounce define (audio) \
defined; defining

Definition of define

transitive verb

1a : to determine or identify the essential qualities or meaning of whatever defines us as human
b : to discover and set forth the meaning of (something, such as a word) how the dictionary defines "grotesque"
c computing : to create with established rules or parameters define a window define a procedure
2a : to fix or mark the limits of : demarcate rigidly defined property lines
b : to make distinct, clear, or detailed especially in outline the issues aren't too well defined eyes defined by mascara
3 : characterize, distinguish you define yourself by the choices you makeDenison Univ. Bull. the moment that defined the campaign

intransitive verb

: to make a definition (see definition sense 1a)

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Other Words from define

definement \ di-​ˈfīn-​mənt How to pronounce definement (audio) \ noun
definer \ di-​ˈfī-​nər How to pronounce definer (audio) \ noun

Examples of define in a Sentence

a term that is difficult to define The government study seeks to define urban poverty. Her book aims to define acceptable social behavior. She believes that success should be defined in terms of health and happiness. That fence defines the far edge of the property.
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Recent Examples on the Web Policymakers are still discussing how to define overtime when people work flexible schedules at home. Washington Post, "While covid-19 continues to force remote work, Europe looks to enforce a right to disconnect," 6 Sep. 2020 There’s plenty of disagreement in the industry over how to define and execute risk parity, but the general idea is to award weightings in a portfolio based on each asset’s volatility and then apply leverage to boost returns. Justina Lee,, "Bridgewater’s Risk-Parity Shift Jolts a $400 Billion Quant Trade," 1 Sep. 2020 Technologists don’t define rules for the Smarter STIP AI model. Sara Castellanos, WSJ, "Visa Unveils More Powerful AI Tool That Approves or Denies Card Transactions," 26 Aug. 2020 The general couldn’t tell him what courage is; the poet couldn’t define poetry. Eric Weiner, Fortune, "The business advice Socrates would give if he wrote a management book today," 25 Aug. 2020 Most of those states don't define what should be included in those lesson plans. Scottie Andrew, CNN, "There's a movement to get more schools to teach Black history and it's being led by teens," 25 Aug. 2020 The Michigan Board of State Canvassers did not define what specifics steps Detroit would need to take to prevent a takeover, or outline what exact powers would fall to Benson if Detroit failed to act. Dave Boucher, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan board vote may mandate future state takeover of Detroit elections," 24 Aug. 2020 The task force did not define a threshold for a community with low levels of coronavirus. Mario Ariza,, "A plan to reopen Florida’s nursing homes is taking shape. There’s ‘absolutely a sense of urgency.'," 14 Aug. 2020 That factor should not define the Pelicans’ fortunes. Mark Medina, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Pelicans’ playoff fortunes should not hang on how they handle Zion Williamson's minutes," 4 Aug. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'define.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of define

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for define

Middle English diffinen, defynen, borrowed from Anglo-French definer, diffiner, borrowed (with conjugation change) from Medieval Latin dēfīnīre, diffīnīre (dif- by association with dif-, assimilated form of dis- dis-), going back to Latin dēfīnīre "to mark the limits of, determine, give an exact description of," from dē- de- + fīnīre "to mark out the boundaries of, limit" — more at finish entry 1

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Time Traveler for define

Time Traveler

The first known use of define was in the 14th century

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Statistics for define

Last Updated

13 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Define.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for define


How to pronounce define (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of define

: to explain the meaning of (a word, phrase, etc.)
: to show or describe (someone or something) clearly and completely
: to show the shape, outline, or edge of (something) very clearly


de·​fine | \ di-ˈfīn How to pronounce define (audio) \
defined; defining

Kids Definition of define

1 : to explain the meaning of define a word
2 : to make clear especially in outline Your responsibilities are defined in the handout.

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